As we first reported about the proposed four-unit development at 70 Crestline Drive last year:

Fourteen years ago, the owner of the parcel at 70 Crestline Drive, upon which a 14-unit building and 6,300 square feet of undeveloped Vista Francisco land currently sits, proposed to subdivide the lot and build upon the undeveloped parcel.

Hitting a wall of neighborhood opposition and facing a Zoning Administrator that intended to deny the variance application necessary for the proposed building to rise, the request for the variance and project approval were withdrawn.

With 16 neighbors opposing, including nine in the building on the parcel, a proposal to build upon the undeveloped land is back. This time, however, the plan which was designed “to fit with the existing neighborhood, does not require any variance, and is in full compliance with all applicable zoning regulations, design guidelines and building codes.”

Approved for development by San Francisco’s Planning Commission with a permit to build issued this past May, the construction of a four-unit infill building at 70 Crestline Drive was appealed by the Twin Peaks Eastside Neighborhood Alliance.
Last week, the appeal was upheld by San Francisco’s Board of Appeals, blocking the development of the undeveloped lot as previously approved.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by OA

    Friggin’ criminal that bunch of “ivegotmine” neighbors could lobby to have this development stifled. What a shame.

  2. Posted by Adam

    My understanding (from previous coverage on this site) is that this open space was specifically promised to remain open as one of the conditions of the original development. Much like the controversy over the proposed Apple Store near Union Square the pertinent question is this- at what point are developers allowed to go and rip out the public amenities used to gain permission for earlier projects? In my opinion, they should not be allowed to do so.

  3. Posted by wc1

    Agree with Adam.
    Normally I’m pro development, but in this isn’t just a vacant lot, it’s open space that is an amenity of the existing development. If I had a property here, I’d be objecting as well.

  4. Posted by Futurist

    This may be “open space”, but correct me if I’m wrong: isn’t this particular parcel private property?
    If so, it should be allowed for development, from a completely legal point of view.
    If the neighbors want to preserve it as permanent open space then they should purchase it.

  5. Posted by anon

    ballot measure in 3…2…1

  6. Posted by lark

    Ah, another libertarian. Futurist wants “property rights” to trump the legal system.
    There is no such thing as property rights in nature – they exist because of the legal system. If you were smart you’d be grateful for that.

  7. Posted by Futurist

    So, I guess you would like to get rid of the legal system?
    So, land and or lots are not defined dimensionally and by coordinates?
    So, does that mean the property you live in and the actual land space, whether you rent or own, should be allowed to be removed or taken over by someone else who wants it instead?

  8. Posted by lark

    Futurist, if you think you are making sense, you should be examined by a doctor.
    Btw, I don’t read this blog for property rights ideology, but for good information. The libertarian nuttiness, if it keeps up, will cost you this reader.

  9. Posted by Patrick

    Silly Anon, you’ve got it bass ackwards; the legal system protects our property rights. The Third Amendment of the US Constitution prevents the government from quartering soldiers in private homes, and the Fourth Amendment protects one’s property from unreasonable search and seizure.
    It’s puzzling that everybody seems to remember that this the lot was left undeveloped as “open space”, and yet the parcel was not held by the City’s Open Space District, nor does it appear that there was a deed restriction to prevent it from being developed. If someone purchased the lot with the intention of developing it, they may have a private right of action against the seller, since this condition was not mentioned at the time of sale.

  10. Posted by Futurist

    Patrick just reinforced what I also said.
    I would hope the property OWNER take legal action against The City allowing for legal development of that land into residential housing.

  11. Posted by GetOffTheIvy

    Who is paying the taxes? The neighbors or the developer? Maybe there was a wink and nod agreement for open space, but with out deed restrictions it is worthless.
    The project fits the the area. The city issued permits and part of the process is notifying the neighbors, this is just bad city hall shenanigans.

  12. Posted by Park Views

    OPEN SPACE is the issue? Really?? Um, duh, there’s a gigantic mass of it right across the street; it’s called TWIN PEAKS!
    The whole issue of the City letting neighbors control the fate of private development has spun totally out of control.

  13. Posted by Futurist

    Totally agree Park Views. It seems our city government is more and more letting every Nimby faction have a MORE powerful in say in matters that are already, and should be, governed by codes, regulations and laws.
    The neighbors fighting this LEGAL development should be held accountable for illegally seizing private property, and the Board of Appeals should give the public clear, legal reasons why the project should not go ahead.
    Complete travesty on the part of our city government and complete lack of adherence to law on the part of the neighbors. Shame on them.

  14. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    And people like anonanon can’t figure out why housing is so expensive here. Exhibit A. It takes over 14 years just to get a permit!

  15. Posted by anonanon

    “And people like anonanon can’t figure out why housing is so expensive here. Exhibit A. It takes over 14 years just to get a permit!”
    Oh, I thought housing was expensive because of the acute shortage of luxury condo towers.

  16. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    This isn’t about open space, per se, it’s about those owners on the left of the parcel losing ‘their’ views and those cars parked perpendicular to the street at the bottom of the parcel losing ‘their’ parking spaces.

  17. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Based on the description here the developer was seeking zoning variances. So apparently there are restrictions on the lot and that makes the neighbors’ objections legitimate. I’m not saying I agree with the decision – I wish the city would be better at mediating these disputes and come to some mutually acceptable solution. A process that doesn’t allow for that is broken.

  18. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    That is not how I read it:
    “This time, however, the plan which was designed “to fit with the existing neighborhood, does not require any variance, and is in full compliance with all applicable zoning regulations, design guidelines and building codes.”
    Maybe that means something different but I doubt it. They followed the code to the T but got shot down by political pressure. Is there really something else going on here that I don’t understand?

  19. Posted by Futurist

    I agree NVJ. some else is going on and it stinks.
    This shows that when a developer/property owner/home owner follows the code to the T, they still can lose.
    Something is fishy in the Planning Commission, and the NIMBY neighbors are to blame.

  20. Posted by Skirunman

    It was the board of appeals that shot this down.
    [Editor’s Note: As reported above.]

  21. Posted by Futurist

    Yes, you’re right. Then something is fishy and stinks with the Board of Appeals.
    The whole thing is just wrong to me.

  22. Posted by Mark Cooper

    Critique & commentary would be more relevant & helpful if gentle readers would only take the time to investigate a subject just a little before compulsively grabbing their keyboards. For example, this story is not about views, the taking of property, or the inconvenience of small apartments. This story is about greed, the value (or lack of value) of neighborhood opinion, the arbitrary breaking of old agreements, the quality of life in a crowded city, & the possible loss of a whole series of mini-parks. Most importantly, this story is about the fight to stop a destructive precedent.
    Like so many other slices of green in our neighborhood, the green space and stairs of Vista Lane creates a park-like environment between two rather bland apartment buildings, themselves a part of a series of multi-building pods that make up a planned neighborhood known as Vista Francisco. This stairway & green space provides a lovely walking experience for literally thousands of tourists and locals alike who every year uses it for walks around the neighborhood as well as access to and from the summit of Twin Peaks. The space was overgrown with an array of colorful small trees, bushes, and flowers before the owner clear-cut most of it a few months ago, but even now provides a home for many birds and small animals. Combined with similar small oases scattered throughout the neighborhood, it adds significantly to the quality of life in our area. Losing it would be detrimental to visitors, neighbors, & the City at large, but that’s not the biggest problem.
    A key ingredient of the original Vista Francisco plan, & perhaps its most important feature, was the inclusion of green spaces and/or stairways between every few buildings. Now, more than four decades later, with no concern whatever for city planning, hard-fought land use agreements, environmental issues, or persistent opposition from generations of residents, one person has decided that his personal enrichment is more important than all else. He already owns the lot & large apartment building that sits upon it. He has been trying for years to subdivide in order to build out onto the splinter of green separating the end of his building from the narrow Vista Lane Stairway.
    Of even greater concern than the greed of this one person is the probability that if approved, this subdivision project will set a precedent which in time will lead to the destruction of all similar green spaces between all of the other buildings in the development. If one landowner gets away with breaking the original covenant, others most certainly will follow & instead of a lovely collection of small green spaces cascading beside stairways down the hill, we will instead be staring at continuous walls of anonymous buildings along treeless streets & stairway alleys.
    The panoramic views from Vista Francisco have always compensated somewhat for its rather dull architecture. However, what few non-residents seem to realize is that more important to most locals is the natural setting of the neighborhood, which we share with fox, blackbird, raccoon, falcon, opossum, coyote, feral cats, & myriad other wildlife who also enjoy & depend upon the many little bits of green space leading up & into the grassy hillsides & meadows of Twin Peaks.

  23. Posted by anon

    Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Greed? LOL. Just read what you wrote and tell me that “greed” doesn’t apply to yourself.

  24. Posted by Fishchum

    If the original covenants call for this space to remain open as part of the overall development, then I’m siding with the neighbors on this one.

  25. Posted by anon

    ^I’d need to see some proof that that is actually the case. There has been no mention of that in the actual planning meetings, which makes me believe that it is not something in the actual legal covenants, but probably something assumed or implied way back when. That’s not good enough to me.

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